The Peralta Grant scheme to defraud the government and the people of Arizona was cooked up by a clever opportunist named “Doc” Willing. Willing died long before realizing his dream and shortly after involving a St Louis real estate developer named James Addison Reavis. Reavis saw it through to the bitter end when he was found guilty by the U.S. Court of Private Land Claims in Santa Fe and sentenced to a fine and two years in prison. He died penniless in Denver in 1914.
The huge claim stretched from Silver City to Phoenix and encompassed the territory’s richest land. At the time Reavis got involved, the substance of the audacious movida consisted of old papers in a burlap sack and some carvings on a rock near Casa Grande. Like some other slick promoters and profiteers of the era, Reavis was from Missouri. He had enlisted in the Confederacy but surrendered to Union forces after forging furlough papers. Thomas Catron later recalled that Reavis had served in his artillery regiment but left to get married and never returned.
While the outcome of the scheme was ultimately unsuccessful, Reavis profited for years from quitclaim deeds sold to settlers and miners.
To be continued...
Source: The Peralta Grant: James Addison Reavis and the Barony of Arizona. Donald M. Powell, University of Oklahoma Press, 1960.